Giving residents with special needs a chance to ‘shine’

There are many organizations in the Birmingham area that do good things for the community and are worthy of support. I had the pleasure recently of witnessing first-hand the work of one such organization: Night to Shine Birmingham.

Held at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church on Friday, Feb. 7, Night to Shine is designed to be a prom night experience for people with special needs.

And was it ever an experience.

The local event was one of 600 across the country on the same night. It is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, and Tebow himself visited OMPC as Night to Shine staff and volunteers prepared for the big night.

Night to Shine guests register and are each paired with a “buddy” who experiences the night alongside them. Then, it’s time for the fun to begin.

The guests enter the church while being announced by name and are given their moment to shine as they walk the red carpet while being cheered on by supporters including UAB cheerleaders.

Once inside, guests receive the royal treatment: corsages and boutonnieres, delicious food and desserts, a karaoke stage with live audience, airbrushed tattoos, photo booths, meet and greet with famous movie characters, limousine rides, dancing and more.

Free hair and makeup service was available for the ladies, and gentlemen could take advantage of a shoe shine station.

A parent/caregiver respite was also available.

Abigail Ledbetter was one of the guests at Night to Shine on Feb. 7. She was accompanied by Susan Vicens, whose son Koa also had special needs and dated Abigail before his passing in 2016.

Vicens recalled the first prom Koa and Abigail attended together—how they danced and how they smiled. Though Abigail could not attend Night to Shine with Koa, Vicens was thrilled to be there with her as she experienced another prom.

Though Night to Shine is an evening full of fun for guests and their caregivers, it offers so much more.

“It gives parents a view of what their child can do,” Vicens said. “Everybody can do anything.”

Stephen Dawkins is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 537 or by email at stephen.dawkins@shelbycountyreporter.com.